As Spring is right around the corner, you might want to consider connecting more with nature this warm season. A great way to do that is to learn about the wild species that grow in your environment. It’s especially exciting when you can start to identify plants that are edible.
There are many good reasons for becoming knowledgeable in wild edibles and actually I think it is the most important thing a human can do. We are in a social and environmental crisis and I believe that is mostly because no one is connected to the natural world anymore.
Being out in nature is good for your health both mental, and physical. Learning about the environment that surrounds you helps you to become slightly more self-sufficient and develop a deeper connection with the land you inhabit. In addition, you might gain skills that are useful in an emergency situation or in the event of a societal collapse. All around, plant identification will enable you to become a better human!
I still have a long way to go in this process, and I’m still in the phase of getting my feet wet. But I think it is a very rewarding endeavour and an exciting pastime. I’m so looking forward to learning more.
Forager’s Harvest is an excellent introductory book for wild edibles.
First of all, Samuel Thayer is a very good writer and this book is pleasant and fun to read. He has a relatable writing voice, and the section for each plant comes with a little story or description that adds life and character to the species. I think this is a great quality for such an important topic. Many books on wild plants tend to be dry and non-engaging.
The author also has a lifetime experience with wild edibles, as he never ceased experimenting with them since childhood. Most of us as children are really drawn to wild plants, but we get trained out of that natural inclination. Well, this guy persevered and now actually lives a life where foraging and having a connection with nature is a reality and lifestyle for him and his family.
The book offers an account of each plant’s use based on the author’s experience. He describes the problem with many other wild food books that they will simply just regurgitate information from previous publications without the author having had the experience themselves and sometimes the information is misleading or incorrect.
The book contains only a select few plants (32 in total) instead of every single possible edible in this region. This is a great quality for beginners since it would be overwhelming to be presented with a such a long list, and one would not know where to start. The selection does not necessarily represent his favourite plants, but rather a representation of a variety of food types, seasons and habitats, and those he feels he has sufficient experience with.
There are descriptions of how to collect the plant and what parts to use – other books I’ve looked at do not have this quality and it’s very frustrating. There are sections on harvest and preparation methods, as well as storing wild foods.
It also includes WHEN they are in season, and even a very useful chart and calendar. Again, something that is sorely lacking in other literature. The calendar is obviously fixed for his particular region but is applicable to the Great Lakes, Midwest, Northeast and the southern part of eastern Canada. He states that the information will be useful people in any part of North America.
Overall, this book is very useful and life-changing. I pretty much carried it with me all last summer, and I’ll always remember that as a time when I developed a new appreciation and zeal for life and when the natural world seemed magical to me again for the first time since childhood. I’ll carry it around with me this year too!